2013 Streaming Audio Update

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So it's 2013 -- where's my flying car? Sometimes it can be useful (and amusing) to go back and look at articles about soon-to-be-used technology, and how they are -- in fact -- used today. This article is about state-of-the-state of audio streaming technology: how it is generated and received. Many of us work for companies that put a lot of effort into their streaming media. I believe that this effort is important, but I also want to be objective about our industry's achievements with streaming media over the last 10 or so years.


Increasing popularity of streaming. There is no doubt that use of streaming audio continues seeing growth. You can spin the statistical results in more ways than one though. For example, if you look at the recently published U.K. audience results from RAJAR, you will see that online listening (including via apps on mobile phones) has grown 43 percent year over year. That's an impressive figure, to be sure. On the other hand, online listening in the U.K. (again, including mobile phone apps) now represents 4.9 percent of all listening there. That doesn't sound quite as impressive -- though assuming the growth rate remains constant, next year we would expect to see it to reach 7 percent, and the year after, 10 percent. Whether or not this increase will come at the expense of over-the-air (OTA) listening remains to be seen.

Likewise, if you look at online measurement results provided by Triton Digital, and compare December 2012 results with those of December 2011, you'll also see dramatic changes in online listening in the United States.

Triton Ranker (top 5) Dec 2011Triton Ranker (top 5) Dec 2012Year-to-year change (%) avg. active sessions
.Avg active sessionsSession statsAvg active sessionsSession Stats.
iHeart Radio178,08276,717,405iHeart Radio266,937109,514,31349.8

Granted, these are only the top five, and it's simply a year-over-year comparison; but it is interesting that not all the top five show year-over-year increases. To make it more of an apples vs. apples comparison with the RAJAR results, I compared the sum total (top five) average active sessions year over year, and I come up with a 43 percent increase, just like that of the U.K. The conclusion that I'll draw from this is that we can expect more increases when the same results are published a year from now.

With the ever-increasing popularity of online listening one could reasonably expect that more and more revenue for radio is being generated by stream insertion; however, it isn't at all clear that is completely true. I only need point to the case of Saga Communications. Last summer, it not only stopped streaming audio for its stations in markets outside of the top 100, but it also abandoned ad-insertion on its remaining streams in favor of simply simulcasting its OTA audio and online streams. WBEB, a perennial powerhouse FM in Philadelphia, ended its streaming altogether in 2010. KCMS in Seattle has (at least for the time being) given up ad-insertion; I wrote about the methodology previously in the September 2012 issue of Radio magazine.

Still, these stations seem to be exceptions to the rule: many stations are streaming, and many of those are employing ad-insertion.

- continued on page 2

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